Like the first half, this episode began with what you could call a flash- forward, a brief glimpse of the future to which we are edging so painfully. Under some of the least convincing ageing make-up ever applied, Leila receives a visit from her grown-up son Calvin. Calvin drives a Golf, still the standard symbol for prosperous bourgeoisification, and works at a law-centre. So, as you are plunged back into the world of slum landlords and casual prejudice, you know that something is going to go right for the baby in Leila's arms. You need the consolation, because your education in male delinquency - juvenile and adult - is arduous and unremitting. In this drama, to be a man is to be in flight from responsibility, incapacitated by inflated expectations. And Michael's self-indulgence, we are explicitly told, is typical: "Your father behaved no better and no worse than most of the men," says Leila.
Nor is this an arraignment of one race alone. Leila is befriended by a local white widow who suffers just as much at the hands of her young son; while Gary practises his sneer and listens to pop records, his younger sister is downstairs helping in the shop, demonstrating that the female virtues of fortitude and realism will transmit themselves down the generations. This feels like an act of reparation on Phillips's part, rather than one of creation - a memorialising of some struggle and sacrifice close to home, or even a proxy confession for the sins of the fathers - but the candour of the documentation still can't do much to energise the drama.
There is a resolution of sorts, a stirring, slightly self-conscious speech in which Leila contradicts her own mother's fierce nostalgia. "You've only got one home and one home is all you'll ever have," she has told her daughter, a Caribbean argument for repatriation which Leila finally rejects. "This England is your home," she says to Calvin, "and as long as it is your home, it's my home too". Which seems a provisional sort of settlement after such a long journey, but may be the best you can hope for. Naturalisation, Phillips seems to suggest, will always involve the expense of a generation.
Claudia Nye's film Captain Pedro and the Three Wishes (C4), provided an inadvertent companion piece to Phillips's fiction, being an account of a more recent emigration: the flight of boat people from Cuba to Miami. Her film was either reconstructed or brave to the point of foolhardiness, as the camera appears to have embarked on shark-infested seas with a desperate family of Cubans. Nye had unwisely attached a narration by the unborn child of Captain Pedro's wife, which added a fey note to a film which otherwise displayed a bracing roughness. It felt authentic to me, from the bickering over the construction of the raft to the belated realisation of the enormity of the act. This film made it clear that poverty often has bad art-directors, with no sense of style and a passion for breeze-block. In other words, that emigration, however risky, always seems rational to those emigrating. The family finally made it to Florida, where they found, in contradiction to the genre requirements, that all of their dreams were true. They couldn't afford many of them, naturally, but that was the beginning of another journey.Reuse content